Now what? Where to from here?
It's an open question after USC's chance to have its general counsel study the 497 pages of NCAA emails and documents made public Tuesday from the Todd McNair defamation lawsuit.
The statements released by USC and Athletic Director Pat Haden leave it up in the air right now. Here's what they say.
The USC statement: After an initial review of this first set of documents unsealed by the court in the McNair v. NCAA lawsuit, it is evident that the content confirms bias against McNair and USC by and on behalf of the NCAA and its Committee on Infractions. We are extremely disappointed and dismayed at the way the NCAA investigated, judged and penalized our university throughout this process. USC hopes that the transparency in this case will ultimately lead to review and changes so that all member institutions receive the fair and impartial treatment they deserve.
"It seems likely that there are additional documents that will come to light. Once USC has had the opportunity to review all of the documents unsealed by the court, we will determine what further action is appropriate."
USC is absolutely correct about that. More documents are to come. And if this case goes to trial, many more. Many that haven't been created as the McNair attorneys depose every single member of the Committee on Infractions and the Appeals Committee. Thus far, just one of them has been deposed. Imagine how those will make the NCAA COI process look.
Just a hypothetical question: "So you knew that there wasn't evidence to connect Todd McNair to any of this, you even said so in your emails, and yet you voted to convict and sanction USC with the toughest penalties since SMU's death penalty. How could you do that? What were you thinking? You're a law professor. Is this what you want your students to learn from their professor's actions?" And on and on.
For those of us who knew this day would come, and what the documents would say, this first batch was something of a vindication and a triumph, certainly for Todd McNair, whose steadfastness has made this moment happen.
To be honest, McNair has given USC the chance to clear its name and finally stand up for itself and all those student-athletes, alums, Trojans, fans, coaches and the USC community who have been negatively impacted for nearly a decade by the corrupt NCAA process that we're seeing documented at last.
There's a different tone from Haden now after trying mightily for more than four years to be a good soldier and as supportive of the NCAA as was humanly possible.
“These recent documents confirm what we’ve believed all along, that we were treated unfairly in this investigation and its penalties," Haden said Wednesday.
“I think these documents are cause for concern about the NCAA’s own institutional controls . . . It should be concerning to all schools that the NCAA didn't appear to follow its own rules.”
How much concern should there be that nearly five years after the NCAA trio of Roscoe Howard, Rodney Uphoff and Shep Cooper did their dirty work, they're still involved in their positions with the Committee on Infractions. How is that possible.
USC may not have had these documents (more about this later) but it's obvious the NCAA did. How could anyone in any position of authority at the NCAA allow any of these people to finish out the day after reading what we've read? What does that say about the NCAA?
Which is where you would think the NCAA would be today. How much more of this do they want to go through? What about when the next document dump of 200 items hits, which it will? And what if this goes to trial? And the endless depositions come out.
And then there's the trial itself. If the Appeals Court doesn't throw this out, which it almost certainly won't, after the 90 days the parties have been given to re-work their briefs knowing everything will be public, then it comes back to LA for trial. And as we've said before, from a very smart attorney who knows about these things, that trial will be a rarity.
Most of the time when it comes to court cases, each side has its moments. The McNair case will be one "where the NCAA never has a good day," he said. "Every day will be a bad day for them."
And now that the first batch of documents are out, the NCAA has already lost. It's just a matter of time. Do they really want to drag this out another five years and pay those legal fees while getting bashed every time more incriminating documents come out? And if you think McNair's attorneys, who have outfoxed the NCAA every step of the way here, are going to let that happen, well then you're not as smart as an NCAA attorney. They're going to hammer them. And they should.
But then there's also this. The worse the NCAA looks, well, USC doesn't look so good itself. And here's why. More than two years ago when the ruling by LA Superior Court Judge Frederick Schaller came down, that was USC's chance. They should have taken that ruling to Indianapolis and demanded to see those 497 pages the NCAA had filed in the McNair case.
California has a "fair process" law and the NCAA has its bylaws. USC could have stood on both of those to demand what it had to wait for until Tuesday. OK, big missed opportunity in the first year of scholarship sanctions to do what UCLA did when they caught an NCAA investigator's fiance bragging on a plane how UCLA was going to go down even before the investigation had begun. Or how Miami caught the NCAA in unethical conduct in that investigation.
Both used them as get-out-of-jail cards. Imagine what USC could have bargained for then -- scholarships, the victories -- they were there and up for grabs.
The scholarships aren't exactly in play now although USC should surely have the right the next few years to be able to get to 85 scholarships every year and do it in whatever fashion it chooses. That's for starters. And then there are the victories. get rid of the asterisks. Give them back. Which makes the BCS title also an item to be returned. As it should be.
But then there's the apology USC should demand from the NCAA clearing its good name and that of Todd McNair, who in concert with USC and the NCAA, would be made whole -- financally, professionally, reputationally. There are ways this can be done.
In effect, we're saying we've had enough of this if only the NCAA would be smart enough to work with USC to make this go away -- the right way. Sure, we'd like to see all the rest of the incriminating stuff. And we'd be in the first row for the trial -- and maybe will still be.
But if there's a way to make this right -- for example, we'd suggest the trio of Uphoff, Howard and Cooper take a leave of absence from the NCAA for the exact amount of time Todd McNair has been separated from his coaching duties. And we'd like a personal apology from the COI members like Missy Conboy and Josephine Potuto.
And we'd like it to be over with an agreement between USC and the NCAA that an independent blue-ribbon panel would be brought in to study the entire case with guaranteed full access to all the players with the charge to report on how it happened and how it could be prevented from ever happening again.
Should the NCAA agree to all of this, including the multiple millions of dollars for McNair and maybe a hefty fine paid to USC for the organization's bad actions, we'd be willing to see this go away.
As long as it goes away the right way. Which will require USC to act in a strong, determined, purposeful way, something we have yet to see to this point.
Now if the NCAA does not agree to this, then USC should say it will pursue these same ends without the NCAA's cooperation. And if the NCAA thought the McNair case was a problem, having USC coming after them in court -- with what we know now -- would make this an even more excruciating next half-dozen years for the NCAA.
And as much as we might enjoy that outcome, not having to go through it to get a good result is the better way to go right now.You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.